It’s impossible think about daily life without polyether foams. They provide modern comfort in seat upholstery and mattresses. They form the foot-bed in shoes and the inner linings of textiles. As a packaging material, they protect; as carpet cushions, they absorb sound. They’re also used in industry and medicine. Because they fulfill numerous requirements, polyether foams can be manufactured in various versions, densities, and structures.
Bayer MaterialScience produces hundreds of product variants, or PET formulations, in both of its polyether facilities in Dormagen am Rhein, Germany. The production procedures are complicated, and the processing capacities are limited. Lengthy delivery times must be taken into account for raw and base materials. These materials are stored in tanks and warehouses until needed, and their use in the various production steps – amending, weighing, purifying, and intermediate storage – might not occur directly after each other. Ultimately, they are made ready for shipment as blends and trading units: end products that reflect customer desires.
Scheduling and production processes must be just as adjustable as polyether foam is versatile. Bayer MaterialScience in Dormagen schedules and controls its manufacturing processes with SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization – Production Planning and Detailed Scheduling (SAP APO PP/DS). The PP/DS scheduling capability in SAP APO is an element of mySAP Supply Chain Management. At Bayer MaterialScience, the application improves planning processes considerably. Networking with the central SAP R/3 solution now enables integrated scheduling through all production levels and significantly increases the company’s ability to react to the unexpected. It also lowers the number of costly empty periods and quantities of semifinished, intermediate inventory.
Replacing Legacy Systems
Bayer MaterialScience originally set up two local scheduling systems in addition to SAP R/3. An application from JD Edwards (then called Numetrix) monitored the manufacture of the basic polyether product. A proprietary, host-based scheduling application for the use of boilers handled production planning for the various formulations. However, these systems worked together only partially. Data had to be maintained manually to transfer information on material scheduling, production, warehouse movements, and inventory from SAP R/3 into detailed scheduling for the production processes.
With the implementation of SAP APO PP/DS, Bayer MaterialScience looked to its supply chain management (SCM) strategy and set major concrete goals for the project:
- Creation of integrated, multilevel production planning in one system and in real-time collaboration with SAP R/3
- Complete integration of the strategic plan for sales and operational planning and, in particular, enablement of forecast-based, market-oriented production
- Replacement of the previous insular solution and simultaneous improvement of the new IT solution to gain detailed information in a few operational steps
Bayer MaterialScience engaged j&m Management Consulting AG to implement SAP APO PP/DS. The challenge was to integrate sales planning, order processing, and production in terms of both process and IT. The first step consciously abstained from a completely automated solution so that the application would remain manageable and to foster its acceptance. A comprehensive planning board enabled schedulers to follow all the information relevant to real-time scheduling and to intervene in planning when necessary.
Coupled Sales and Order Processing
The following steps proved essential to the successful implementation of SAP APO PP/DS at Bayer MaterialScience:
- The first step implemented a comprehensive, alert-based, and interactive scheduling system and took into account integration and transparency.
- The second step automated manual, repetitive scheduling while looking for solutions to problems to relieve planners from routine tasks.
- The third step used optimization procedures during producing planning and improved them according to defined metrics: the reduction of setup time, for example.
No attempt was made to realize complex algorithms right at the start. Dealing with automation in a later phase has its advantages:
- Because the planning processes can be improved continuously, additional implementations require less effort and achieve a higher ROI.
- Implementation in steps helps users understand the solution before the system schedules independently in the background (black box syndrome).
- Users themselves learn to demand and accept automatic processes.
The implementation now enables planners to promptly react to requirements from sales and to directly schedule production adjustments from one source. Special alerts immediately inform those responsible for planning of changes in production requirements. The changes include deviations, changes, and unplanned events, which always occur in practice. The production planning board clearly indicates the need for action in real time and immediately displays the changes relevant to production that are triggered by the alerts. It thus supports modifications to the production plan.
Production Flow on the Planning Board
The implemented design is oriented toward the reality of the planning process, which produces end products and the products’ preliminary stages and components. The reality includes fulfillment of concrete orders from customers (make-to-order) and production of items that will be stored in anticipation of future orders (make-to-forecast).
Phased production monitoring in SAP APO PP/DS has distinct advantages. The planning board automatically displays all phases of production. It enables tracing of quality controls and running production at full capacity. And the company can make better use of the container resources, primarily tanks, in which chemical reactions occur and that are used to store substances. This improvement helps schedule tanker trucks better and reduces the time that they sit idle.
Now that the planning tools have been successfully implemented in the pilot plants, the company is developing a business case study that looks at rolling out the solution at other plants at Bayer MaterialScience. Despite the complex scope of operations in Dormagen, the implementation resulted in good insights that can be realized in additional rollouts and that promise even shorter implementation times and higher ROI.
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